Local organization providing service dogs triples kennel space to expand reach

Noodle, a hearing assistance dog, was trained by the staff at Dogs for Better Lives. (KTVL/Genevieve Grippo)

A local organization focused on providing service dogs to those in need is expanding its capacity.

Dogs for Better Lives has been in operation since 1977. It started training dogs solely for the deaf and hearing impaired, but since then, has implemented autism assistance and program assistance training.

Currently, the DBL facility contains 22 kennels, but construction is underway for an additional building that will triple that.

"The number of kennels we have is restricting the number of dogs we can place each year," said Andrea Woodcock, Training Manager for DBL. "[The new building] is going to have 40 kennels in it. Each of those kennels is going to be able to house 2 dogs a piece, so that is going to hugely increase the number of dogs we're going to place per year."

Each year, the organization rescues dogs from shelters, trains them and places them in homes across the country-- about 20-25 dogs annually.

"When I'm taking them to the client and I'm saying goodbye to the dog,I'm watching that dog fulfill its purpose," said Andrea Woodcock, Training Manager for DBL. "And that is my favorite part of the job, is seeing them impact that life."

Getting dogs to that point, however, is not easy work. Each canine undergoes 4-6 months of extensive training, and even then, some do not make it through the program.

Those that do not are considered to be "career change dogs," and are adopted out by DBL at no cost.

Animals that do make it through the in-depth training are then placed around the country for those needing hearing and program assistance.

But DBL's newest program, one benefiting autistic children, is only operated throughout the state. The kennel expansion could broaden that border.

"I think the two main goals for us is to increase our autism and our program assistance dogs more nationwide and get them out to more and more people so we can help more induviduals," said John Drach, Training Director for DBL.

The organization provides all of its services at no cost to its clients, except for a $50 application fee. DBL is funded almost exclusively by grants and private donations.

To learn more about Dogs for Better Lives, and to find out how to donate,volunteer, or apply for a service dog, click here.

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